The Toronto Star once called it “the crisis no one is talking about.”
But there were two more shootings in the entertainment district over the weekend and all of a sudden, people are talking about Toronto’s spike in gun violence.
It was a little less than a year ago, when The Star ran its opinion piece.
“This year, politicians have scrambled to introduce and implement policies to contain many crises facing the city of Toronto. Soaring housing prices, public transit in desperate need of funding, and hundreds of social housing units too dangerous to be inhabited,” Angela Wright and Louis March wrote on July 28, 2017.
“There is, however, another crisis that has garnered much less political attention,” the opinion piece continued. “This crisis not only has the potential to threaten the livelihoods of Torontonians, but also their lives.
That problem hasn’t gone away. Saturday, a brazen shooting in the entertainment district left one man dead and at least two others injured. Two more men were killed and a woman was in critical condition after another shooting at Queen and Peter Street on the busy and hot Saturday night in the entertainment district.
That brought Toronto’s homicide total to 51 this year. There have been over 200 shootings this year, according to Toronto police.
It was a little over a month ago, when CityNews put the problem in a headline: “Gun violence in downtown Toronto up 167% so far in 2018”
A headline on the CTV News website exactly one month ago read: “Recent spate of ‘brazen’ gun violence in Toronto raising alarm”
“As temperatures rise in Canada’s largest city so has the number of gun-related crimes,” wrote Jackie Dunham of CTV News. “A recent spate of high-profile shootings in bustling Toronto neighbourhoods has raised concerns about public safety, prompting a response from Mayor John Tory.
”In the span of 12 days, there have been five homicides from gun violence and in May alone, there were 52 shootings in the city. As of May 27, there have been 162 shootings in Toronto this year, an 11 per cent increase from the same time last year, according to the Toronto Police Service.
Tory, meanwhile, gave it the old “company line” in his response to the spike in gun violence.
“In response to the heightened awareness of the violence, Tory reassured people that Toronto continues to be a “safe city” despite the recent spike in violence,” Dunham wrote.
Tory addressed the problem this way: “The incidents of gun violence we have seen in our city in the past few days are shocking and can in no way be accepted or brushed aside. Police are also deploying additional resources where they believe they will be most effective.”
The mayor also said that Police Chief Mark Saunders assured him that officers were doing everything possible to apprehend those responsible.
It was the old everything is beautiful speech. And that was a month ago. But when are Tory and Saunders going to toss aside the sugar coating and tell it like it is?
Toronto has a problem.
The Toronto Star’s Wright and March ran the 2017 statistics up until the July shooting. Those statistics read like this: “The tragic shootings in Scarborough last weekend mark the city’s 204th shooting of the year — a 5 per cent increase from the same time last year — with a total 308 shooting victims. Gun homicides increased 58 per cent from 26 in 2015 to 41 in 2016; there have been 20 gun fatalities so far this year.
“Despite a 25-year decline in overall crime, shootings and gun homicides are rising,” Wright and March wrote a little less than a year ago.
“Even with these frightening statistics, Toronto’s elected city council continues to ignore this urgent issue. Now is not the time for the mayor and city councillors to be relaxing on summer vacation,” Wright and March added.
“Last year, Mayor John Tory sent letters to Ralph Goodale, the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, and Yasir Naqvi, the then-provincial minister of community safety. Tory highlighted the problem of increasing gun violence in the city and requesting the ministers address the problem of gun smuggling across the border and other illicit sales of firearms within Canada.
“This, however, is not enough.”
“In order to address this escalating threat, Toronto City Council should immediately convene an anti-gun violence forum that gathers all parties affected by this issue,” Wright and March wrote. “This includes ex-offenders, gang members, the families of both shooting victims and shooters, youth service workers, crown prosecutors, judges, educators, doctors, government representatives, media and academics.
“All stakeholders must come together with a single objective: to define the complexity of the problem and focus on finding solutions. The pressing nature of this situation necessitates a frank — yet essential — conversation.
“Gun violence isn’t only a problem to be solved by government. There must be a collaborative and collective effort to solve what affects every resident of Toronto, regardless of their social status or where they reside in the city.
“It’s time for all politicians to show political will and courage and finally work toward eradicating gun violence that has been plaguing the city for far too long while traumatizing and terrorizing so many.”
Angela Wright is a writer and public affairs professional who has lost family members to gun violence. Louis March is founder of the Zero Gun Violence Movement. They have knowledge of the problem.
Now, Toronto did hold a gun violence forum in Etobicoke back in April to discuss problems with gun violence in the Toronto’s Somali community.
But perhaps it’s time for another forum in downtown Toronto. If this was a space mission, the transmission might sound something like this: “Toronto, we have a problem.”
Maybe, if Toronto comes to grips with the situation and realizes the problem is real, it will do something about it. Lives are being lost. It’s time the city took some concrete action to stop the disturbing increase in gun violence.